By Amanda Becker and Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Women marched in hundreds of US cities and overseas on Saturday to celebrate the second anniversary of demonstrations that drove millions of protesters to the streets the day after the inauguration of Republican President Donald Trump in January 2017.
Women & # 39; s March, a national nonprofit that evolved from the first march in Washington, once again hosted its main event in Washington, with hundreds of sister mares & # 39; in other cities.
March On, a separate grassroots coalition that also grew out of the original march, coordinated hundreds of marches in cities such as Boston, Houston, Baltimore and Denver.
Leaders from both groups said they would use this year's marches to encourage policies on raising the minimum wage, access to reproductive health and voting rights, alongside other issues. They want to mobilize women to vote before the 2020 elections when Trump is expected to be the Republican candidate for president.
"There is definitely a huge, huge focus on the 2020 elections," said March On's Natalie Sanchez, an organizer of the Boston Women's March 2017, which is also joined with March Forward Massachusetts, which mars of Saturday organized there.
US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who launched her bid on the Democratic Presidential nomination of 2020 this week, addressed the women's march in Des Moines, Iowa, the state that holds the first nomination contest and serves as a test ground for hopeful White House people . She told the crowd that the march of 2017 was one of the most influential political moments in her life.
"Now it's time to come from the sidelines. Our democracy only works when people like you come up and demand it," Gillibrand said.
Kimberly Graham, 54, a lawyer in Des Moines, said that attending the march there two years ago gave her hope after the Trump election seemed to her dejected. Her excitement of seeing so many women and minorities win midterm election contests has inspired her to weigh the challenging Republican American Senator Joni Ernst.
"It has given me a lot of hope that things will turn out, that it is darkest for the light," said Graham.
Activists say the marches were an opportunity to celebrate the profits made in the 2018 elections, which saw more women elected at the Congress than ever before.
The newly elected women – almost all democrats – include the first Muslim women and the first Indian women in Congress, as well as the first black women who represent their New England states. Many called the presidency of Trump one of the reasons why they decided to go to the office.
As the political movement that grew in 2017 grew from hundreds of loosely connected marches, divisions arose.
In some cities, such as New York and Washington, there was more than one march or demonstration as a result of criticism that some female leaders are anti-Semitic in March – an accusation that these leaders are trying to dispel in recent interviews and statements.
Leaders of Women & # 39; s March and March On say that there is a role for everyone and that divisions in leadership have not detracted from the overall movement.
Julie Wash, 57, a librarian at Saratoga Springs, New York, said that Tamika Mallory, leader of the women's march, who has received repercussions for her support to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, is being held to a different standard than Trump and other white , male leaders.
"There is a level of responsibility that we need to hold on to white established men if we want to keep Tamika Mallory on that standard," said Wash.
Wash came to Washington with her friend Nan Sullivan (65), a business owner of Saratoga Springs.
"Give us the whole table, do not give us a seat, just give us the whole table, get out of the way and we'll clean up the mess," Sullivan said.
The marches have also been criticized as being unwelcome to conservative women who can support the presidency of Trump and oppose abortion rights. The annual March for Life by anti-abortion campaigners was held Friday in Washington, attended by Vice President Mike Pence.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker and Katharine Jackson in Washington, additional reporting by Ginger Gibson in Des Moines; Montage by Colleen Jenkins, Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)